Chapter 3. Revision History

The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker jargon from technical cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab (SAIL), and others of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities including Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

The Jargon File (hereafter referred to as ‘jargon-1’ or ‘the File’) was begun by Raphael Finkel at Stanford in 1975. From this time until the plug was finally pulled on the SAIL computer in 1991, the File was named AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC] there. Some terms in it date back considerably earlier (frob and some senses of moby, for instance, go back to the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT and are believed to date at least back to the early 1960s). The revisions of jargon-1 were all unnumbered and may be collectively considered ‘Version 1’.

In 1976, Mark Crispin, having seen an announcement about the File on the SAIL computer, FTPed a copy of the File to MIT. He noticed that it was hardly restricted to ‘AI words’ and so stored the file on his directory as AI:MRC;SAIL JARGON.

The file was quickly renamed JARGON > (the ‘>’ caused versioning under ITS) as a flurry of enhancements were made by Mark Crispin and Guy L. Steele Jr. Unfortunately, amidst all this activity, nobody thought of correcting the term ‘jargon’ to ‘slang’ until the compendium had already become widely known as the Jargon File.

Raphael Finkel dropped out of active participation shortly thereafter and Don Woods became the SAIL contact for the File (which was subsequently kept in duplicate at SAIL and MIT, with periodic resynchronizations).

The File expanded by fits and starts until about 1983; Richard Stallman was prominent among the contributors, adding many MIT and ITS-related coinages.

In Spring 1981, a hacker named Charles Spurgeon got a large chunk of the File published in Stewart Brand's CoEvolution Quarterly (issue 29, pages 26—35) with illustrations by Phil Wadler and Guy Steele (including a couple of the Crunchly cartoons). This appears to have been the File's first paper publication.

A late version of jargon-1, expanded with commentary for the mass market, was edited by Guy Steele into a book published in 1983 as The Hacker's Dictionary (Harper & Row CN 1082, ISBN 0-06-091082-8). The other jargon-1 editors (Raphael Finkel, Don Woods, and Mark Crispin) contributed to this revision, as did Richard M. Stallman and Geoff Goodfellow. This book (now out of print) is hereafter referred to as ‘Steele-1983’ and those six as the Steele-1983 coauthors.

Shortly after the publication of Steele-1983, the File effectively stopped growing and changing. Originally, this was due to a desire to freeze the file temporarily to facilitate the production of Steele-1983, but external conditions caused the ‘temporary’ freeze to become permanent.

The AI Lab culture had been hit hard in the late 1970s by funding cuts and the resulting administrative decision to use vendor-supported hardware and software instead of homebrew whenever possible. At MIT, most AI work had turned to dedicated LISP Machines. At the same time, the commercialization of AI technology lured some of the AI Lab's best and brightest away to startups along the Route 128 strip in Massachusetts and out West in Silicon Valley. The startups built LISP machines for MIT; the central MIT-AI computer became a TWENEX system rather than a host for the AI hackers' beloved ITS.

The Stanford AI Lab had effectively ceased to exist by 1980, although the SAIL computer continued as a Computer Science Department resource until 1991. Stanford became a major TWENEX site, at one point operating more than a dozen TOPS-20 systems; but by the mid-1980s most of the interesting software work was being done on the emerging BSD Unix standard.

In April 1983, the PDP-10-centered cultures that had nourished the File were dealt a death-blow by the cancellation of the Jupiter project at Digital Equipment Corporation. The File's compilers, already dispersed, moved on to other things. Steele-1983 was partly a monument to what its authors thought was a dying tradition; no one involved realized at the time just how wide its influence was to be.

By the mid-1980s the File's content was dated, but the legend that had grown up around it never quite died out. The book, and softcopies obtained off the ARPANET, circulated even in cultures far removed from MIT and Stanford; the content exerted a strong and continuing influence on hacker language and humor. Even as the advent of the microcomputer and other trends fueled a tremendous expansion of hackerdom, the File (and related materials such as the Some AI Koans in Appendix A) came to be seen as a sort of sacred epic, a hacker-culture Matter of Britain chronicling the heroic exploits of the Knights of the Lab. The pace of change in hackerdom at large accelerated tremendously — but the Jargon File, having passed from living document to icon, remained essentially untouched for seven years.

This revision contains nearly the entire text of a late version of jargon-1 (a few obsolete PDP-10-related entries were dropped after careful consultation with the editors of Steele-1983). It merges in about 80% of the Steele-1983 text, omitting some framing material and a very few entries introduced in Steele-1983 that are now also obsolete.

This new version casts a wider net than the old Jargon File; its aim is to cover not just AI or PDP-10 hacker culture but all the technical computing cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested. More than half of the entries now derive from Usenet and represent jargon now current in the C and Unix communities, but special efforts have been made to collect jargon from other cultures including IBM PC programmers, Amiga fans, Mac enthusiasts, and even the IBM mainframe world.

Eric S. Raymond maintains the new File with assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. ; these are the persons primarily reflected in the File's editorial ‘we’, though we take pleasure in acknowledging the special contribution of the other coauthors of Steele-1983. Please email all additions, corrections, and correspondence relating to the Jargon File to Eric.

(Warning: other email addresses and URLs appear in this file but are not guaranteed to be correct after date of publication. Don't email us if an attempt to reach someone bounces — we have no magic way of checking addresses or looking up people. If a web reference goes stale, try a Google or Alta Vista search for relevant phrases.

Please try to review a recent copy of the on-line document before submitting entries; it is available on the Web. It will often contain new material not recorded in the latest paper snapshot that could save you some typing. It also includes some submission guidelines not reproduced here.

The 2.9.6 version became the main text of The New Hacker's Dictionary, by Eric Raymond (ed.), MIT Press 1991, ISBN 0-262-68069-6.

The 3.0.0 version was published in August 1993 as the second edition of The New Hacker's Dictionary, again from MIT Press (ISBN 0-262-18154-1).

The 4.0.0 version was published in September 1996 as the third edition of The New Hacker's Dictionary from MIT Press (ISBN 0-262-68092-0).

The maintainers are committed to updating the on-line version of the Jargon File through and beyond paper publication, and will continue to make it available to archives and public-access sites as a trust of the hacker community.

Here is a chronology of major revisions:

2.1.1Jun 12 1990548542842278958790

The Jargon File comes alive again after a seven-year hiatus. Reorganization and massive additions were by Eric S. Raymond, approved by Guy Steele. Many items of UNIX, C, USENET, and microcomputer-based jargon were added at that time.

2.1.5Nov 28 1990602846946307510866

Changes and additions by ESR in response to numerous USENET submissions and comment from the First Edition co-authors. The Bibliography (Appendix C) was also appended.

2.2.1Dec 15 19909394759544905011046

Most of the contents of the 1983 paper edition edited by Guy Steele was merged in. Many more USENET submissions added, including the International Style and the material on Commonwealth Hackish.

2.3.1Jan 03 199110728850705582611138

The great format change — case is no longer smashed in lexicon keys and cross-references. A very few entries from jargon-1 which were basically straight techspeak were deleted; this enabled the rest of Appendix B (created in 2.1.1) to be merged back into main text and the appendix replaced with the Portrait of J. Random Hacker. More USENET submissions were added.

2.4.1Jan 14 199112362978196428991239

The Story of Mel and many more USENET submissions merged in. More material on hackish writing habits added. Numerous typo fixes.

2.6.1Feb 12 1991150111182777749421484

Second great format change; no more <> around headwords or references. Merged in results of serious copy-editing passes by Guy Steele, Mark Brader. Still more entries added.

2.7.1Mar 01 1991160871268858318721533

New section on slang/jargon/techspeak added. Results of Guy's second edit pass merged in.

2.8.1Mar 22 1991171541356478883331602

Material from the TMRC Dictionary and MRC's editing pass merged in.

2.9.6Aug 16 1991189521486299755511702

Corresponds to reproduction copy for book.

2.9.8Jan 01 19921950915310810060231760

First public release since the book, including over fifty new entries and numerous corrections/additions to old ones. Packaged with version 1.1 of vh(1) hypertext reader.

2.9.9Apr 01 19922029815965110489091821

Folded in XEROX PARC lexicon.

2.9.10Jul 01 19922134916833011069911891

lots of new historical material.

2.9.11Jan 01 19932172517116911258801922

Lots of new historical material.

2.9.12May 10 19932223817511411524671946

A few new entries & changes, marginal MUD/IRC slang and some borderline techspeak removed, all in preparation for 2nd Edition of TNHD.

3.0.0Jul 27 19932254817752011693721961

Manuscript freeze for 2nd edition of TNHD.

3.1.0Oct 15 19942319718100111938181990

Interim release to test WWW conversion.

3.2.0Mar 15 19952382218596112263582031

Spring 1995 update.

3.3.0Jan 20 19962405518795712396042045

Winter 1996 update.

3.3.1Jan 25 19962414718872812445542050

Copy-corrected improvement on 3.3.0 shipped to MIT Press as a step towards TNHD III.

4.0.0Jul 25 19962480119369712814022067

The actual TNHD III version after copy-edit

4.1.08 Apr 19992577720682513599922217

The Jargon File rides again after three years.

4.2.031 Jan 20002659821463914122432267

Fix processing of URLs.

4.3.030 Apr 20012780522497814802152319

Special edition in honor of the first implementation of RFC 1149. Also cleaned up a number of obsolete entries.

4.4.010 May 20033200423001217071392290

XML-Docbook format conversion. Serious pruning of old slang, nearly 100 entries failed the Google test and were removed.

4.4.113 May 20033715723468716187162290

XML-Docbook format fixes.

4.4.222 May 20033262922785215551252290

Fix filename collisions and other small problems.

4.4.315 Jul 20033736323513516296672293

Fix some stylesheet problems leading to missing links.

4.4.414 Aug 20033739223527116305792295

Corrected build machinery; we can make RPMS now.

4.4.5 4 Oct 20033748223585816347672299

Minor updates. Four new entries and a better original-bug picture.

4.4.625 Oct 20033756023640616384542302

Added glider illustration. Amended FUD entry pursuent to SCO's attempt to abuse it.

4.4.729 Dec 20033766623720616436092307

Winter 2003 update.

Version numbering: Version numbers should be read as major.minor.revision. Major version 1 is reserved for the ‘old’ (ITS) Jargon File, jargon-1. Major version 2 encompasses revisions by ESR (Eric S. Raymond) with assistance from GLS (Guy L. Steele, Jr.) leading up to and including the second paper edition. From now on, major version number N.00 will probably correspond to the Nth paper edition. Usually later versions will either completely supersede or incorporate earlier versions, so there is generally no point in keeping old versions around.

Our thanks to the coauthors of Steele-1983 for oversight and assistance, and to the hundreds of Usenetters (too many to name here) who contributed entries and encouragement. More thanks go to several of the old-timers on the Usenet group alt.folklore.computers, who contributed much useful commentary and many corrections and valuable historical perspective: Joseph M. Newcomer , Bernie Cosell , Earl Boebert , and Joe Morris .

We were fortunate enough to have the aid of some accomplished linguists. David Stampe and Charles Hoequist contributed valuable criticism; Joe Keane helped us improve the pronunciation guides.

A few bits of this text quote previous works. We are indebted to Brian A. LaMacchia for obtaining permission for us to use material from the TMRC Dictionary; also, Don Libes contributed some appropriate material from his excellent book Life With UNIX. We thank Per Lindberg , author of the remarkable Swedish-language 'zine Hackerbladet, for bringing FOO! comics to our attention and smuggling one of the IBM hacker underground's own baby jargon files out to us. Thanks also to Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing the inclusion of the ASCII pronunciation guide he formerly maintained. And our gratitude to Marc Weiser of XEROX PARC for securing us permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a copy.

It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge the major contributions of Mark Brader and Steve Summit to the File and Dictionary; they have read and reread many drafts, checked facts, caught typos, submitted an amazing number of thoughtful comments, and done yeoman service in catching typos and minor usage bobbles. Their rare combination of enthusiasm, persistence, wide-ranging technical knowledge, and precisionism in matters of language has been of invaluable help. Indeed, the sustained volume and quality of Mr. Brader's input over a decade and several different editions has only allowed him to escape co-editor credit by the slimmest of margins.

Finally, George V. Reilly helped with TeX arcana and painstakingly proofread some 2.7 and 2.8 versions, and Eric Tiedemann contributed sage advice throughout on rhetoric, amphigory, and philosophunculism.